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8 thought-provokers that successful people live by


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Imagine if success were as easy to achieve as ticking items off a checklist. Sadly, it’s not quite so straightforward, but in my decades of work as a coach, I have learnt that there are certain rules – or thought-provokers, as I like to call them – that successful people live by. Here are eight of my favourites.

  1. Life is largely about how we handle the stuff that goes wrong. Life rarely goes to plan. Promotions fall through, relationships fall apart – and often there’s not a damn thing we can do about it. In such instances, we have two options: go to pieces or move on with a new plan. The latter doesn’t mean having all the answers straight away. The important step is that first one: picking yourself up and pressing forward.
  2. You are your most important project. Think about the time and effort you invest in a work project. You consider the goals, audit the data, bring in experts and identify opportunities. Now think about what you could achieve if you focused that energy on yourself. If you outlined exactly what you wanted to achieve and why, sought help and pursued your heart’s desire. Investing in yourself is the most important investment you’ll ever make.
  3. Successful people do what others aren’t prepared to. So many of us start things but don’t see them through. Diets, exercise plans, relationships, businesses: we start with the best intentions, but when the going gets tough, we tend to walk away. Successful people do the opposite. They do what’s required, even when it’s hard and they don’t want to. They don’t wait and they don’t give in.
  4. The best way to predict your future is to live it now. I often ask my clients to picture their older selves sitting on a veranda, reflecting on their life. Are they proud of what they’ve achieved or, if they had their time over, would they do things differently? Whenever I’m making big decisions or creating change, I wonder what my future self would tell me to do now – and I take heed of their advice.
  5. We don’t need to be happy all the time. So much emphasis is placed on happiness these days, to the point where we stress when our stars aren’t aligning. But guess what? Just because we’re not happy doesn’t mean we are sad. A full life is comprised of all the emotions – happiness, of course, but also sadness, love, fear, joy surprise, anger. Happiness is an outcome; a consequence of how we manage what happens to us. In other words, our resilience. And the people who have it most are the happiest.

  6. Your life is a direct reflection of what you think of you. So many of us never achieve our full potential, because we either underestimate what we’re capable of, or become complacent. All too often, I hear people downplaying their strengths and ambitions, afraid of being seen as arrogant or self-promoting. As a result, they lose the motivation to push themselves. According to one study, only 41 per cent of employees are motivated to give their best effort at work; the remainder take a more lacklustre approach, either because they’re unhappy, unmotivated, or both. Yet imagine what you could achieve if you harnessed your full potential.
  7. Busy is not sexy. When did being busy become a measure of the fullness of our lives? For me, busy is often just another word for stressed. Yes, life does pull us in different directions and we can either lean into it and enjoy the challenge, or learn to say no. If opting for the latter, prioritise your wellbeing: pace yourself, delegate or get help, focus on what is important and let go of what drains you. The most successful people are never too busy for things that matter to them.
  8. People will value who you are the most, not what you do. If we define ourselves and find our self-worth in one particular space, such as our career, we become vulnerable and super-sensitive to failure. And we can lose sight of what is most important to us. As a coach, I encourage people to look at their lives holistically. What brings you joy, what fulfils you, what is most meaningful to you and what do you really want from life? Remember that your job – or whatever you’ve centred your sense of self around – is only one aspect of who you are. It does not define you.

Written by Lisa Stephenson.

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